Day 182: Dog Whistle
From @iloveteamfortresstoo‘s prompt list.
“A group of racist thugs make the biggest mistake of their lives deciding to try and take a drunk Demoman on together.”
Tavish DeGroot sits in a dusty old bar somewhere in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The cigar store Indian out front and the swinging double doors harken back to a time and place where men were men, the good guys wore white, and exists only in the imaginations of idiots with small dicks with something to prove but without the balls to do it. A bleached bull skull is mounted on the wall with a sombrero (made in China) hanging off one horn. The decor is about as tasteful as the liquor.
But it’s the only game in town, and Tavish is not one to stay on base when there’s a furlough. Especially when he’s out of Scrumpy and the only thing left is Blu Streak.
He’s part way into his second bottle when he notices them staring. A group of three, crowded around a table and throwing the occasional look in his direction. He’s seen them around before but never paid them any mind. But he’s alone tonight. He hasn’t talked to the RED Soldier in months, and none of the other BLU’s felt like tagging along.
As he listens to them, his hand slips down the bottle as he leans back in his chair and closes his good eye. It’s an old trick, but works surprisingly well. They don’t know enough to be wary. These men aren’t mercenaries, and Tavish isn’t wearing the uniform that lets a vest full of explosives do the talking.
They get bolder when they think he’s asleep. He hears the “Needs to know his place” and the “Who does he think he is?” Objectively, Tavish understands what this is.
He cracks open his eye to see Eduardo behind the bar. There’s a frown on the bartender’s face and the dirty glances he throws over at the men give Tavish a good idea that just because he’s never listened, doesn’t mean the men haven’t been talking. And a Mexican man is just as good a target as a one-eyed black Scot.
There’s a flicker of movement, and the men get up from their table. Tavish’s eye opens further as they walk up and stand around his table.
“We’ve seen you in here a good couple of times.” The one in the middle seems to be the spokesman. He’s tanned and missing a few teeth. Rough palms, but soft knuckles. The hand of a laborer, not a fighter.
“Aye. I ken ye as well.”
Tavish holds back a smile. They weren’t expecting the accent. They never do.
“Uh, right. Well, we couldn’t help but notice the last time you were here, that you were with a little lady.”
“Aye.” Tavish nodds. Miss Pauling is quite the hustler when it came to a game of billiards. “What of it?”
“It ain’t right, boy.” The leader leans up against the table, putting every bit of venom that he can into the world. “A nice girl like that shouldn’t be with your kind.”
Tavish bursts out into laughter.
The men look back and forth at each other. He senses their unease. Bluster but no bite. If it weren’t for the fact that they were three on one, their arses would still be on their seats. But when they don’t get the reaction they want, he sees hands going towards pockets and towards holsters. Bruised egos and guns can make for a messy business. He glances at the bar, and Eduardo is cleaning a glass. There’s no doubt that he’s aware of everything being said; the bar’s not that big. But Eduardo’s seen the uniform, and knows it for what it means the man wearing it can do.
His silence is all the permission that Tavish needs.
Tavish’s fingers run back up the bottle and wrap around its neck, and the men don’t have time to think before the table flips, and they face the full force of the Clan DeGroot.
When Dell Conagher pulls up, the first thing he sees is his friend standing outside in a once-white shirt. His cap is torn and lets small tufts of hairs stick out. The bruises don’t stand out yet. In fact, they won’t be noticed until his one good eye starts to swell. A bottle of Scrumpy is held loosely in his hand, and a satisfied smile is plastered across his face. The Engineer doesn’t have to ask what happened, he just knows. Bee Cave isn’t too much bigger than Teufort, and he’s quite aware of what small towns can harbor just below the surface.
Tavish walks down the bar’s steps to meet the beat up old pickup, and Del reaches across to push the passenger door open. The Scot’s legs have only the barest hint of a wobble as he climbs into the cab and shuts the door behind him.
“Look like you gave as good as you got.” The words are casual, but Tavish hears the concern that lay just underneath. Del is the closest thing BLU has to a native of the area, and he knows how much each of these little encounters hurt his pride. After all, it’s 1972 and dammit they’re supposed to be better than this.
As the pickup truck rolls down the road, Tavish looks into the rearview mirror. Eduardo is outside, dragging bodies outside and propping them up against the outside of the bar. His mouth is moving, and Tavish can almost hear the rapid-fire Spanish as he watches the bartender give one of them a kick before heading back inside.
“Aye.” Tavish’s thumb traces the bottle’s mouth. “And gave a little more.”